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Poll: Should Saint Louis University be Allowed to Raze the Former Pevely Dairy Building at Grand & Chouteau?

November 6, 2011 Featured, History/Preservation, Midtown, SLU, Sunday Poll 94 Comments
ABOVE: The former Pevely Dairy at Grand & Chouteau (click image for map)

Father Biondi, President of Saint Louis University, must get a rush razing buildings, putting up fences and killing off potentially interesting areas. Word broke last week SLU wants to clear away the remainder of the Pevely Dairy at the SW corner of Grand & Chouteau:

The complex, at Chouteau Avenue and South Grand Boulevard, is made up of large brick buildings erected between 1915 and 1945. SLU has sought demolition permits for the buildings, which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The university argues the buildings can’t accommodate a modern medical practice. (STLtoday.com)

The Preservation Board will consider allowing demolition at their November 28th meeting (4pm). The poll this week asks simply if you think permission should be granted. Many will answer no but some may say maybe if SLU can show the building can’t be rehabbed. Others will say yes because you think since they own the building it is within their right to remove it from the landscape. The poll is in the right sidebar.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "94 comments" on this Article:

  1. Chuck208 says:

    I think the city needs to be as accommodative as possible to SLU. The university is the future of that area.

     
  2. Chuck208 says:

    I think the city needs to be as accommodative as possible to SLU. The university is the future of that area.

     
    • Brian says:

      Actually I am beginning to fear that SLU is inhibiting any Mid-Town growth by monopolizing all land.  A major transit center like that needs lots of small shops and independent businesses.  SLU lately only creates parks or high rises that no one can access nor use.  They are strangling Mid-Town

       
      • JZ71 says:

        I’m guessing that SLU has some sort of master plan.  What role has the city had in integrating it into the larger city?  How do these changes interface with the current zoning?  Obviously, a lot of people aren’t very thrilled with the concept of a suburban / small town campus in the center of a major urban area, yet the university seems to be acting in a vaccuum, with pretty much carte blanche.  Who’s the culprit?  The mayor?  BoA?  Individual aldernmen?  The city’s planning and zoning staffs?  I went through a similar struggle (at the neighborhood level) with the University of Denver.  We were able to extract long term planning document when they needed city approval for zoning changes – something similar needs to be happening here.

         
  3. Anonymous says:

    I like the building and I think it would make some pretty cool lofts.  That said, the previous owner, the one that sold the complex to SLU, couldn’t make the numbers work for lofts to happen.  It boils down to the same issue we face across the city – we have many more old buildings than we have users willing to put up their own dollars to put them to viable uses.  Just say no only goes so far - we simply can’t warehouse every old structure in hopes that the right/next/better (re)use will happen “someday”.  We need to live in today and make our city work for us now.

     
  4. JZ71 says:

    I like the building and I think it would make some pretty cool lofts.  That said, the previous owner, the one that sold the complex to SLU, couldn’t make the numbers work for lofts to happen.  It boils down to the same issue we face across the city – we have many more old buildings than we have users willing to put up their own dollars to put them to viable uses.  Just say no only goes so far – we simply can’t warehouse every old structure in hopes that the right/next/better (re)use will happen “someday”.  We need to live in today and make our city work for us now.

     
    • Adam says:

      Couldn’t or was persuaded not to do so? I’d wager it’s latter.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        Either way, it wasn’t in SLU’s hands, and now it is.

        I’ll repeat, it’s still a supply and demand issue – too many old buildings and not nearly enough old building lovers / investors / buyers, here in the city.

         
  5. Anonymous says:

    SLU is multi-million dollar organization. They’re getting this brand new bridge that essentially just serves them. There is no reason they can’t reuse these properties. They have the resources to do it and do it right.

     
  6. dylanized says:

    SLU is multi-million dollar organization. They’re getting this brand new bridge that essentially just serves them. There is no reason they can’t reuse these properties. They have the resources to do it and do it right.

     
  7. Stacipurnell says:

    SLU owns that property, they should be able to raze it. I am guessing that it’s cheaper to rebuild than to rehab.

     
  8. Stacipurnell says:

    SLU owns that property, they should be able to raze it. I am guessing that it’s cheaper to rebuild than to rehab.

     
  9. Vegieman2002 says:

    It would be necessary to strip that building to the four exterior walls in order to “rehab” it… the average person has no idea what it takes to “rehab” a building much less what it would take to deal with the environmental issues of  a non-code building full of lead paint, asbestos and cork insulation (the single most dangerous thing ever in a fire). I watched one portion of that building burn and am not interested in seeing the rest. If it is such a “Historic Location” then why has it sat, unoccupied, vandalized and rotting? The people of Saint Louis need to stop thinking anything over 100 years old is “Historic”… Milk was bottles there… so what?,SLU has gentrified the area and improved the overall quality of life for everyone in the area, commerce is returning to a formerly blighted area, crime is down… GO SLU!!!!

     
  10. Vegieman2002 says:

    It would be necessary to strip that building to the four exterior walls in order to “rehab” it… the average person has no idea what it takes to “rehab” a building much less what it would take to deal with the environmental issues of  a non-code building full of lead paint, asbestos and cork insulation (the single most dangerous thing ever in a fire). I watched one portion of that building burn and am not interested in seeing the rest. If it is such a “Historic Location” then why has it sat, unoccupied, vandalized and rotting? The people of Saint Louis need to stop thinking anything over 100 years old is “Historic”… Milk was bottles there… so what?,SLU has gentrified the area and improved the overall quality of life for everyone in the area, commerce is returning to a formerly blighted area, crime is down… GO SLU!!!!

     
    • Tpekren says:

      Yep, your knowledge suggests that every building on Washington Avenue should have been demolished.  It is not necessary to strip a building to four walls to “rehab it”

      Nor is this building far from rotting as you suggest.  I believe it was only 3 years ago, 2009, that Pevely was using this space.  As far as commerce returning to the area.  How does commerce return to empty lots?? 

       
  11. Guest says:

    The Grand Bridge serves more than SLU.  Medical buildings have lots of special requirements.

     
  12. Guest says:

    The Grand Bridge serves more than SLU.  Medical buildings have lots of special requirements.

     
  13. Vegieman2002 says:

    And the Grand Bridge exists solely for the benefit of the railroad… NOT SLU!

     
  14. Vegieman2002 says:

    And the Grand Bridge exists solely for the benefit of the railroad… NOT SLU!

     
    • Tpekren says:

      Actually the railroad has the right of way because of interstate commerce clause with or without a bridge.  In other words, the Viaduct doesn’t exist for the benefit of the railroad as traffic would stop any time a train is on the tracks.  The trains themselves will continue on whether a bridge exists or not.

       
  15. Anonymous says:

    Here is a comment I made over at NextSTL. I think it is valid. (With a few corrections) And no the Pevely Building should not be demolished.

    “The first question to ask is what the role of transit on Grand?
     It is already clear Grand is a heavily used transit corridor.  Thus the statement that Grand Avenue, throughout its length in the city, should be a designated pedestrian and transit corridor is true.
    If anyone at SLU or city government does not agree with this idea then they should publically state their case.  The implication is that the Doisy Center, the high rise site, is slated for redevelopment due to its placement on it’s corner site.

    One design solution would be to take the new medical center and build it on the south east corner as an L or U shaped building, creating a nice square and a dramatic entrance to Doisy Center. That way the Pevely building could become housing as projected and along the street south of  the Pevely building, new housing and shops could be built, creating an attractive walk, reinforcing transit and giving workers and students places to stay, close to the campus and work.
    A walking, transit enhanced environment would humanize the whole environment of the area and would improve the image of SLU and the City in the region.  Nothing less should be accepted.”

     
  16. gmichaud says:

    Here is a comment I made over at NextSTL. I think it is valid. (With a few corrections) And no the Pevely Building should not be demolished.

    “The first question to ask is what the role of transit on Grand?
     It is already clear Grand is a heavily used transit corridor.  Thus the statement that Grand Avenue, throughout its length in the city, should be a designated pedestrian and transit corridor is true.
    If anyone at SLU or city government does not agree with this idea then they should publically state their case.  The implication is that the Doisy Center, the high rise site, is slated for redevelopment due to its placement on it’s corner site.

    One design solution would be to take the new medical center and build it on the south east corner as an L or U shaped building, creating a nice square and a dramatic entrance to Doisy Center. That way the Pevely building could become housing as projected and along the street south of  the Pevely building, new housing and shops could be built, creating an attractive walk, reinforcing transit and giving workers and students places to stay, close to the campus and work.
    A walking, transit enhanced environment would humanize the whole environment of the area and would improve the image of SLU and the City in the region.  Nothing less should be accepted.”

     
  17. Imran says:

    They need to respect the old architecture. Completely razing the Pevely building will send the message that they don’t care about the city’s rich past. If they creatively incorporate the corner shell and the stack into a modern addition, they would probably meet their needs while keeping everyone (except for the purists) happy and maybe providing a template for say BJC to do the same in the CWE (rather then replace all brick with metal glass towers that they are currently doing)

     
  18. Imran says:

    They need to respect the old architecture. Completely razing the Pevely building will send the message that they don’t care about the city’s rich past. If they creatively incorporate the corner shell and the stack into a modern addition, they would probably meet their needs while keeping everyone (except for the purists) happy and maybe providing a template for say BJC to do the same in the CWE (rather then replace all brick with metal glass towers that they are currently doing)

     
  19. Luftmentsch says:

    Stop the demolition. SLU has already destroyed one long patch of Grand. That’s enough. In Europe, everywhere you look there are beautiful old buildings that have been retrofitted for use as offices, labs, and, yes, hospitals. The frequent argument that it’s too complicated or too costly to retrofit old buildings here is self-serving nonsense. And just because you own a property, does not give you a right to do anything you like with it. Just try building an architecturally modern house in Clayton or Ladue. The only reason people get away with random demolition and the construction of crap in St. Louis City is because our city “leaders” are so desperate for every dollar of investment, no matter the cost to our urban fabric. As my wife likes to say, St. Louis doesn’t have the ocean or beautiful mountains. All we have to define us is historic buildings and streetscapes. We need to preserve that!

     
  20. Luftmentsch says:

    Stop the demolition. SLU has already destroyed one long patch of Grand. That’s enough. In Europe, everywhere you look there are beautiful old buildings that have been retrofitted for use as offices, labs, and, yes, hospitals. The frequent argument that it’s too complicated or too costly to retrofit old buildings here is self-serving nonsense. And just because you own a property, does not give you a right to do anything you like with it. Just try building an architecturally modern house in Clayton or Ladue. The only reason people get away with random demolition and the construction of crap in St. Louis City is because our city “leaders” are so desperate for every dollar of investment, no matter the cost to our urban fabric. As my wife likes to say, St. Louis doesn’t have the ocean or beautiful mountains. All we have to define us is historic buildings and streetscapes. We need to preserve that!

     
  21. Megan says:

    I understand that the Pevely Dairy Building is a landmark. But after witnessing the building catch on fire last year, it is clear that the structure is unsound. I am certain the black smoke that filled the air that day was unsafe and that anyone who could have happened upon the building soon after the blaze could have been in a dangerous situation. The building should definitely be razed and either replaced with something more useful or demolished altogether. Perhaps a good accommodation would be to keep the Pevely sign intact in order to honor the history behind it. Surely that would be a good compromise. Then again, getting Biondi to compromise on anything is like pulling teeth. 

     
  22. Megan H. says:

    I understand that the Pevely Dairy Building is a landmark. But after witnessing the building catch on fire last year, it is clear that the structure is unsound. I am certain the black smoke that filled the air that day was unsafe and that anyone who could have happened upon the building soon after the blaze could have been in a dangerous situation. The building should definitely be razed and either replaced with something more useful or demolished altogether. Perhaps a good accommodation would be to keep the Pevely sign intact in order to honor the history behind it. Surely that would be a good compromise. Then again, getting Biondi to compromise on anything is like pulling teeth. 

     
    • Tpekren says:

      The building that caught on fire is alreayd demolished if I’m not mistaken.  It was one of the original warehouses in the complex.  The building at the corner being discussed didn’t catch on fire or sustained any fire damage.

       
  23. Tpekren says:

    Actually the railroad has the right of way because of interstate commerce clause with or without a bridge.  In other words, the Viaduct doesn’t exist for the benefit of the railroad as traffic would stop any time a train is on the tracks.  The trains themselves will continue on whether a bridge exists or not.

     
  24. Tpekren says:

    The building that caught on fire is alreayd demolished if I’m not mistaken.  It was one of the original warehouses in the complex.  The building at the corner being discussed didn’t catch on fire or sustained any fire damage.

     
  25. Tpekren says:

    Yep, your knowledge suggests that every building on Washington Avenue should have been demolished.  It is not necessary to strip a building to four walls to “rehab it”

    Nor is this building far from rotting as you suggest.  I believe it was only 3 years ago, 2009, that Pevely was using this space.  As far as commerce returning to the area.  How does commerce return to empty lots?? 

     
  26. Eric says:

    The building is 65-95 years old depending on the section. Some of us here are probably older than the building. So why exactly is it so historically significant?

    Yes, it’s probably somewhat better looking that whatever will replace it, but is that enough reason to force SLU not to destroy it? Ask them – yes, legally require them – no.

     
  27. Eric says:

    The building is 65-95 years old depending on the section. Some of us here are probably older than the building. So why exactly is it so historically significant?

    Yes, it’s probably somewhat better looking that whatever will replace it, but is that enough reason to force SLU not to destroy it? Ask them – yes, legally require them – no.

     
  28. Branwell1 says:

    They should not be allowed to demolish it. At the very least, they should be willing to modify plans if need be to accommodate preservation of key structures. SLU is not financially distressed. If it is truly a community leader, it should talk, act, develop, and interact with the community like one.

    If the current SLU leaders had held sway 40 years ago, Cupples house, an architectural gem and city landmark, would have been demolished for some grass and benches. Thankfully, Father McNamee had the vision and drive to promote historic preservation.

     
  29. Branwell1 says:

    They should not be allowed to demolish it. At the very least, they should be willing to modify plans if need be to accommodate preservation of key structures. SLU is not financially distressed. If it is truly a community leader, it should talk, act, develop, and interact with the community like one.

    If the current SLU leaders had held sway 40 years ago, Cupples house, an architectural gem and city landmark, would have been demolished for some grass and benches. Thankfully, Father McNamee had the vision and drive to promote historic preservation.

     
    • As important as maintaining the historic structure is the question of what SLU would put in its place.  If it looks anything like the vacant, sprawling mess they built across the street from Pevely, then I doubt anyone would be on board…

       
  30. Adam says:

    Couldn’t or was persuaded not to do so? I’d wager it’s latter.

     
  31. Adam says:

    Do you demolition supporters understand how much vacant land SLU owns in Midtown? How about they build something on one of their MANY under-capacity parking lots or one of their empty grass fields before tearing down more density and further suburbanizing the city? Why is it alright for a not-for-profit institution to horde land, TAX FREE, and sit on it indefinitely with no plan for redevelopment? If “the university is the future of that area” then Midtown is F*CKED and downtown will forever remain disconnected from the CWE. This is not JUST about preserving a landmark structure based on aesthetics and historic significance, this is also about reducing waste and creating the threshold density that is required for a healthy city.

     
  32. Adam says:

    Do you demolition supporters understand how much vacant land SLU owns in Midtown? How about they build something on one of their MANY under-capacity parking lots or one of their empty grass fields before tearing down more density and further suburbanizing the city? Why is it alright for a not-for-profit institution to horde land, TAX FREE, and sit on it indefinitely with no plan for redevelopment? If “the university is the future of that area” then Midtown is F*CKED and downtown will forever remain disconnected from the CWE. This is not JUST about preserving a landmark structure based on aesthetics and historic significance, this is also about reducing waste and creating the threshold density that is required for a healthy city.

     
    • Branwell1 says:

      Right on.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        As one of those “demolition supporters”, do you demolition opposers know how many vacant buildings, of all sorts, are in our fair city?  This complex sat on the open market for several years with no buyers.  Other buildings have been available for decades.  Vacant buildings don’t just freeze in time, at their last real use.  They require ongoing maintenance, and that costs money.  Would I like to save every old structure?  Probably, but not by just letting them sit empty.  A vibrant city requires active users, not a bunch of empty boxes.  I’d be thrilled if SLU can incorporate part or all of these structures in their plans, but I’m not willing to draw a line in the sand on this one, saying no way, no how.

         
        • Adam says:

          JZ, give me a god-damned break. First, you completely ignored the point about how SLU owns ACRES of already vacant land throughout Midtown, some of it adjacent to the Pevely site. Secondly, Pevely occupied this building until 2008, and since then Bruce Yacky has owned the complex and worked up plans to redevelop it. So ACTUALLY the building has not “sat on the open market for several years” as you claim. Furthermore, we’re not talking about “other buildings” we’re talking about this one. I suspect that SLU had a heavy hand in Yackey’s decision to sell to them, and I also suspect that the fire that destroyed one of the warehouses at the complex was not an accident. You know what else a city requires? Something other than empty surface lots for those “active users” to occupy. If this complex was not suitable for SLU’s building, they should not have purchased it, especially – AGAIN – considering how much empty land they own in Midtown. Plain and f*cking simple. Take a look at this:

          http://vanishingstl.blogspot.com/2011/11/hey-slu-historic-buildings-can-be.html

          for some examples of historic buildings adapted for medical offices.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            You’re “mixing metaphors” here – all land is not equal, just like all buildings are not equal.  I have no idea what SLU wants to build / accomodate here, so I have no idea whether, or how well, the existing structures might or might not work, and I doubt that you do either.  I do know that this site is closer to SLU’s medical campus than it is to SLU’s academic campus, so it’s logical that a) it will be medically-oriented, and b) that vacant land further north would be much less convenient for any medically-oriented uses.  We both agree that the existing building can probably be modified to fit many uses, and probably should, but if SLU plans to do something 2-3 times bigger, the challenges are much greater.

            I agree that SLU probably made Mr. Yacky an attractive offer (otherwise he’d still own the property).  I’m not quite sure what you object to in this private, market-based transaction.  Every commercial property has a price, and both buyer and seller here appear to be satisfied.  And while I would question why any buyer would buy a building that’s in good shape, only to tear it down, it obviously happens more than any of us would like.

            I do agree that a city needs more “than empty surface lots for those ‘active users’ to occupy”.  The city also needs more than a bunch of empty buildings, as well.  We’re just struggling with the reality of a city built for 800,000 people that now houses less than half that number.  Half as many people means that nearly half our buildings no longer have viable uses.  We wouldn’t be talking about vacant buildings and vacant lots if our population and our economy were vibrant and growing (it ain’t).  While SLU obviously has less incentive to “do something” with their vacant real estate because of their tax breaks, a much bigger incentive is simply that our land and real estate values are so low on the open market – why not buy now and avoid paying a lot more in the future?!

             
          • Adam says:

            “…why not buy now and avoid paying a lot more in the future?!”

            because it’s short-sighted and not in the best interest of the city.

            “I do know that this site is closer to SLU’s medical campus than it is to SLU’s academic campus…”

            actually, the large swath of wasted green space adjacent to Doisy is closer, and the entire north side of the Grand/Chouteau intersection is at most 100 feet farther away. so i don’t have to know how well the existing structure would accommodate their needs because there are at least two sites that are better or equally well-located that either don’t require demolition or require demolition of insignificant structures (i.e. a couple of sheet-metal storage sheds).

            you keep bringing up the fact that the city has a bunch of empty buildings, so lets do some math: one historic empty building in excellent condition + one building constructed on an empty lot = one new, occupied building + one historic empty building in excellent condition that can still be rehabbed and populated, thus salvaging materials as well as the city’s historic beauty, heritage and identity = A. on the other hand, one demolished historic building + one new building thrown up in its place = one populated building + one empty lot < A. (p.s. Pevely has seen no lack of interest since it was vacated in 2008). seems pretty "duh" to me but i'm sure you'll continue to play devil's advocate as usual.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Money talks.  There may have been interest in the Pevely complex before SLU purchased it, but apparently not enough interest.  And while it’s easy to cast SLU as the bad guy here, the real villain would have to be the dairy, since they’re the one that moved out and left a vacant indsutrial complex.

            800,000 > 350,000 = no need for half of what we have/had.  And I agree that building new when we have good old makes little sense, many users want new, not old, so the only way to get new is to tear down old.  The only other alternative is sprawl, since vacant land ends up being on the edges, not in the urban core.

             
        • Branwell1 says:

          You are dangerously close to a disappointingly condescending tone. I am instantly suspicious of perspectives that include assessments of what I (or others) don’t know or fail to appreciate in our naive sentimentality.

          We can debate individual buildings and their importance or architectural merit all day long. We know that historic preservation is often feasible and that historic architecture is a tangible and significant attribute that St. Louis has lost too much of. When a cultural institution and supposed civic leader (SLU) is involved in a project of this nature, it is eminently reasonable to expect that all alternatives to yet more demolition would be exhaustively explored. I believe that if they are, demolition in this case will not and need not be pursued. I think some of the vehement preservationst feelings expressed in this thread reflect the established track record of SLU regarding historic buildings. That track record needs to change.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            My “condescending tone” was in direct response to Adam’s tone.  Labels pigeon-hole people and do little to advance the discussion.  I’m not a pure demolition supporter, nor am I a pure demolition opposer.  Yes, SLU has acres of vacant land, but that’s not the issue here.  The issue with the Pevely site is one of adjacency – it’s near the medical campus, while the vacant acres further north are just that, further north.  Few owners tear down buildings out of spite.  If they have vacant land and need to build a building, odds are they will try and use that vacant land first. 

            That said, and as my first posting said, “I like the building and I think it would make some pretty cool lofts.”  The challenge remains dollars.  IF Mr. Yacky thought he could make money doing lofts, why would he sell to SLU?!  In the world of commercial real estate, EVERY building has a price.  Obviously, SLU was willing to pay Mr. Yacky what he wanted.  And if someone else had offered more, someone else would now own the property.  Yes, major institutions have “deep pockets”, but they also have budgets to meet, so any real estate that’s “too expensive” likely won’t be acquired, especialy since they usually lack the ability to condemn a property.

            Your last point is the most difficult to address – “That track record needs to change”.  At the institutional level, whether it’s historic preservation or constantly building new buildings, it boils down to institutional vision.  We all assume that SLU is pro-demolition.  Is that officially stated anywhere, or just the conclusion based on past actions?  Does the city need to draw a line around the institution, and say that anything outside the line is off-limits?  Or, are we just experiencing, and will continue to experience, on-going creep?  Will they eventually expand south of I-44?  South of Arsenal?  East of Jefferson?  North of MLK?  West to the CWE?  Universities are notorious for always wanting to “grow”, and SLU is not an abberation – major donors like seeing their names on buildings.  The Pevely site may end up being the catalyst for this larger discussion; the challenge will be finding that someone in the public sector willing to take on the legendary Fr. Biondi . . . .

             
          • Adam says:

            “Labels pigeon-hole people and do little to advance the discussion.  I’m
            not a pure demolition supporter, nor am I a pure demolition opposer.”

            my apologies if you thought i was suggesting that you support all demolitions. i was speaking of this one, which you stated that you support. and “labeling” (i.e. addressing) those who support this demolition as “demolition supporters” is not inappropriate. you’re right about how labeling people doesn’t advance discussion though; that’s why i wrote all that other stuff too.

            “Yes, SLU has acres of vacant land, but that’s not the issue here.”

            why not?

            “The
            issue with the Pevely site is one of adjacency – it’s near the medical
            campus, while the vacant acres further north are just that, further
            north.”

            nope. see my comment above.

            “Few owners tear down buildings out of spite.  If they have
            vacant land and need to build a building, odds are they will try and use
            that vacant land first.”

            well, apparently SLU is one of the few then. this isn’t a hypothetical scenario; take a walk around Midtown and look at the evidence.

             
          • Adam says:

            “We all assume that SLU is pro-demolition.  Is that officially stated anywhere, or just the conclusion based on past actions?”

            since when have statements spoken louder than actions? “oh, well as long as they STATE that they’re not pro-demolition… they must just be anti-building!” and who the hell would STATE that they’re pro-demolition even if they were!? Yes, it boils down to institutional vision, and Biondi envisions himself doing whatever the f*ck he wants in Midtown.

             
          • Adam says:

             “Does the city need to draw a line around the institution, and say that anything outside the line is off-limits?”

            When that tax-exempt institution demolishes reusable buildings to avoid having to pay for upkeep, and then collects and sits on vacant land indefinitely in the heart of the city, YES!

             
          • JZ71 says:

            And that’s my point – what is SLU’s plan, vision?  Does anyone know, besides Fr. Biondi?  Is the city giving him a free hand to do whatever he sees fit to do?  At the expense of adjacent neighborhoods?  If so, why?  Or, will a much bigger student population create more demand in the adjacent neighborhoods, bringing back their historic densities?  And this needs to be tempered with the reality that they’re investing in the city while the dairy abandoned the city . . . .

            Whether it’s the institutions I’ve attended or the ones that I’ve lived near, all have had, and continue to have, an edifice complex.  They build and build and then build some more.  Their borders creep outward as they buy adjacent properties for future projects.  Wash U apparently has large holdings north of their campus; the only difference is that they haven’t torn much down . . . . yet.

            What SLU is doing doesn’t surprise me, but I’m also surprised that there seems to have been little pushback, until now, and even that seems to be tepid, at best.  The outcry over the proposed demolition of the flying saucer was much more vocal, and it’s a much smaller structure.  Even Michael Allen seems willing to just preserve the facade here, and I’m hearing nothing from any of our elected “leaders”.

            Bigger picture, we can discuss whether or not all this acquisition and construction is truly necessary, and how it impacts the cost of higher education.  SLU is a microcosm of all of the whole sprawl versus density arguments.  With a campus that has two major nodes, more than a mile apart, should they be connected by a sprawling, low density campus?  Or, should each node get more dense and be connected by frequent transit service? 

            Urban universities, in my mind, need to be dense, otherwise they feel more like community colleges.  And the real “defining moment” is on- and near-campus housing.  Commuters live much different lives than resident students, and the campus life, and thus the campus infrastructure, evolves to meet these two different lifestyles.

             
  33. Branwell1 says:

    Right on.

     
  34. JZ71 says:

    Either way, it wasn’t in SLU’s hands, and now it is.

    I’ll repeat, it’s still a supply and demand issue – too many old buildings and not nearly enough old building lovers / investors / buyers, here in the city.

     
  35. JZ71 says:

    As one of those “demolition supporters”, do you demolition opposers know how many vacant buildings, of all sorts, are in our fair city?  This complex sat on the open market for several years with no buyers.  Other buildings have been available for decades.  Vacant buildings don’t just freeze in time, at their last real use.  They require ongoing maintenance, and that costs money.  Would I like to save every old structure?  Probably, but not by just letting them sit empty.  A vibrant city requires active users, not a bunch of empty boxes.  I’d be thrilled if SLU can incorporate part or all of these structures in their plans, but I’m not willing to draw a line in the sand on this one, saying no way, no how.

     
  36. Brian Sieve says:

    That corner is already lifeless from the park opposite.  And then the East side is a barren park.  The streetscape needs to be preserved.  There are a million things that SLU or someone else can do with that building.  His greenspace fetish needs to be curtailed before all of mid-town resembles a freakin Detroit suburb

     
  37. Brian Sieve says:

    That corner is already lifeless from the park opposite.  And then the East side is a barren park.  The streetscape needs to be preserved.  There are a million things that SLU or someone else can do with that building.  His greenspace fetish needs to be curtailed before all of mid-town resembles a freakin Detroit suburb

     
  38. Brian says:

    Actually I am beginning to fear that SLU is inhibiting any Mid-Town growth by monopolizing all land.  A major transit center like that needs lots of small shops and independent businesses.  SLU lately only creates parks or high rises that no one can access nor use.  They are strangling Mid-Town

     
  39. Anonymous says:

    It is no doubt not an issue of supply and demand.  Pure logic dictates that Doisy Center land masses should become the foundation of a new transit system. I f thss is coupled with heavy worker/student involvement,  SLU could become the center of transit and surpass Wash U.
    Transit is far more influential than any other approach.
    So then what  are the  solutions?

     
  40. gmichaud says:

    It is no doubt not an issue of supply and demand.  Pure logic dictates that Doisy Center land masses should become the foundation of a new transit system. I f thss is coupled with heavy worker/student involvement,  SLU could become the center of transit and surpass Wash U.
    Transit is far more influential than any other approach.
    So then what  are the  solutions?

     
  41. Anonymous says:

    I’m guessing that SLU has some sort of master plan.  What role has the city had in integrating it into the larger city?  How do these changes interface with the current zoning?  Obviously, a lot of people aren’t very thrilled with the concept of a suburban / small town campus in the center of a major urban area, yet the university seems to be acting in a vaccuum, with pretty much carte blanche.  Who’s the culprit?  The mayor?  BoA?  Individual aldernmen?  The city’s planning and zoning staffs?  I went through a similar struggle (at the neighborhood level) with the University of Denver.  We were able to extract long term planning document when they needed city approval for zoning changes – something similar needs to be happening here.

     
  42. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by the building and been caught up in it’s epic shadow.

     
  43. As important as maintaining the historic structure is the question of what SLU would put in its place.  If it looks anything like the vacant, sprawling mess they built across the street from Pevely, then I doubt anyone would be on board…

     
  44. Adam says:

    JZ, give me a god-damned break. First, you completely ignored the point about how SLU owns ACRES of already vacant land throughout Midtown, some of it adjacent to the Pevely site. Secondly, Pevely occupied this building until 2008, and since then Bruce Yacky has owned the complex and worked up plans to redevelop it. So ACTUALLY the building has not “sat on the open market for several years” as you claim. Furthermore, we’re not talking about “other buildings” we’re talking about this one. I suspect that SLU had a heavy hand in Yackey’s decision to sell to them, and I also suspect that the fire that destroyed one of the warehouses at the complex was not an accident. You know what else a city requires? Something other than empty surface lots for those “active users” to occupy. If this complex was not suitable for SLU’s building, they should not have purchased it, especially – AGAIN – considering how much empty land they own in Midtown. Plain and f*cking simple. Take a look at this:

    http://vanishingstl.blogspot.com/2011/11/hey-slu-historic-buildings-can-be.html

    for some examples of historic buildings adapted for medical offices.

     
  45. Branwell1 says:

    You are dangerously close to a disappointingly condescending tone. I am instantly suspicious of perspectives that include assessments of what I (or others) don’t know or fail to appreciate in our naive sentimentality.

    We can debate individual buildings and their importance or architectural merit all day long. We know that historic preservation is often feasible and that historic architecture is a tangible and significant attribute that St. Louis has lost too much of. When a cultural institution and supposed civic leader (SLU) is involved in a project of this nature, it is eminently reasonable to expect that all alternatives to yet more demolition would be exhaustively explored. I believe that if they are, demolition in this case will not and need not be pursued. I think some of the vehement preservationst feelings expressed in this thread reflect the established track record of SLU regarding historic buildings. That track record needs to change.

     
  46. Anonymous says:

    You’re “mixing metaphors” here – all land is not equal, just like all buildings are not equal.  I have no idea what SLU wants to build / accomodate here, so I have no idea whether, or how well, the existing structures might or might not work, and I doubt that you do either.  I do know that this site is closer to SLU’s medical campus than it is to SLU’s academic campus, so it’s logical that a) it will be medically-oriented, and b) that vacant land further north would be much less convenient for any medically-oriented uses.  We both agree that the existing building can probably be modified to fit many uses, and probably should, but if SLU plans to do something 2-3 times bigger, the challenges are much greater.

    I agree that SLU probably made Mr. Yacky an attractive offer (otherwise he’d still own the property).  I’m not quite sure what you object to in this private, market-based transaction.  Every commercial property has a price, and both buyer and seller here appear to be satisfied.  And while I would question why any buyer would buy a building that’s in good shape, only to tear it down, it obviously happens more than any of us would like.

    I do agree that a city needs more “than empty surface lots for those ‘active users’ to occupy”.  The city also needs more than a bunch of empty buildings, as well.  We’re just struggling with the reality of a city built for 800,000 people that now houses less than half that number.  Half as many people means that nearly half our buildings no longer have viable uses.  We wouldn’t be talking about vacant buildings and vacant lots if our population and our economy were vibrant and growing (it ain’t).  While SLU obviously has less incentive to “do something” with their vacant real estate because of their tax breaks, a much bigger incentive is simply that our land and real estate values are so low on the open market – why not buy now and avoid paying a lot more in the future?!

     
  47. Anonymous says:

    My “condescending tone” was in direct response to Adam’s tone.  Labels pigeon-hole people and do little to advance the discussion.  I’m not a pure demolition supporter, nor am I a pure demolition opposer.  Yes, SLU has acres of vacant land, but that’s not the issue here.  The issue with the Pevely site is one of adjacency – it’s near the medical campus, while the vacant acres further north are just that, further north.  Few owners tear down buildings out of spite.  If they have vacant land and need to build a building, odds are they will try and use that vacant land first. 

    That said, and as my first posting said, “I like the building and I think it would make some pretty cool lofts.”  The challenge remains dollars.  IF Mr. Yacky thought he could make money doing lofts, why would he sell to SLU?!  In the world of commercial real estate, EVERY building has a price.  Obviously, SLU was willing to pay Mr. Yacky what he wanted.  And if someone else had offered more, someone else would now own the property.  Yes, major institutions have “deep pockets”, but they also have budgets to meet, so any real estate that’s “too expensive” likely won’t be acquired, especialy since they usually lack the ability to condemn a property.

    Your last point is the most difficult to address – “That track record needs to change”.  At the institutional level, whether it’s historic preservation or constantly building new buildings, it boils down to institutional vision.  We all assume that SLU is pro-demolition.  Is that officially stated anywhere, or just the conclusion based on past actions?  Does the city need to draw a line around the institution, and say that anything outside the line is off-limits?  Or, are we just experiencing, and will continue to experience, on-going creep?  Will they eventually expand south of I-44?  South of Arsenal?  East of Jefferson?  North of MLK?  West to the CWE?  Universities are notorious for always wanting to “grow”, and SLU is not an abberation – major donors like seeing their names on buildings.  The Pevely site may end up being the catalyst for this larger discussion; the challenge will be finding that someone in the public sector willing to take on the legendary Fr. Biondi . . . .

     
  48. Adam says:

    “…why not buy now and avoid paying a lot more in the future?!”

    because it’s short-sighted and not in the best interest of the city.

    “I do know that this site is closer to SLU’s medical campus than it is to SLU’s academic campus…”

    actually, the large swath of wasted green space adjacent to Doisy is closer, and the entire north side of the Grand/Chouteau intersection is at most 100 feet farther away. so i don’t have to know how well the existing structure would accommodate their needs because there are at least two sites that are better or equally well-located that either don’t require demolition or require demolition of insignificant structures (i.e. a couple of sheet-metal storage sheds).

    you keep bringing up the fact that the city has a bunch of empty buildings, so lets do some math: one historic empty building in excellent condition + one building constructed on an empty lot = one new, occupied building + one historic empty building in excellent condition that can still be rehabbed and populated, thus salvaging materials as well as the city’s historic beauty, heritage and identity = A. on the other hand, one demolished historic building + one new building thrown up in its place = one populated building + one empty lot < A. (p.s. Pevely has seen no lack of interest since it was vacated in 2008). seems pretty "duh" to me but i'm sure you'll continue to play devil's advocate as usual.

     
  49. Adam says:

    “Labels pigeon-hole people and do little to advance the discussion.  I’m
    not a pure demolition supporter, nor am I a pure demolition opposer.”

    my apologies if you thought i was suggesting that you support all demolitions. i was speaking of this one, which you stated that you support. and “labeling” (i.e. addressing) those who support this demolition as “demolition supporters” is not inappropriate. you’re right about how labeling people doesn’t advance discussion though; that’s why i wrote all that other stuff too.

    “Yes, SLU has acres of vacant land, but that’s not the issue here.”

    why not?

    “The
    issue with the Pevely site is one of adjacency – it’s near the medical
    campus, while the vacant acres further north are just that, further
    north.”

    nope. see my comment above.

    “Few owners tear down buildings out of spite.  If they have
    vacant land and need to build a building, odds are they will try and use
    that vacant land first.”

    well, apparently SLU is one of the few then. this isn’t a hypothetical scenario; take a walk around Midtown and look at the evidence.

     
  50. Adam says:

    “We all assume that SLU is pro-demolition.  Is that officially stated anywhere, or just the conclusion based on past actions?”

    since when have statements spoken louder than actions? “oh, well as long as they STATE that they’re not pro-demolition… they must just be anti-building!” and who the hell would STATE that they’re pro-demolition even if they were!? Yes, it boils down to institutional vision, and Biondi envisions himself doing whatever the f*ck he wants in Midtown.

     
  51. Adam says:

     “Does the city need to draw a line around the institution, and say that anything outside the line is off-limits?”

    When that tax-exempt institution demolishes reusable buildings to avoid having to pay for upkeep, and then collects and sits on vacant land indefinitely in the heart of the city, YES!

     
  52. Anonymous says:

    And that’s my point – what is SLU’s plan, vision?  Does anyone know, besides Fr. Biondi?  Is the city giving him a free hand to do whatever he sees fit to do?  At the expense of adjacent neighborhoods?  If so, why?  Or, will a much bigger student population create more demand in the adjacent neighborhoods, bringing back their historic densities?  And this needs to be tempered with the reality that they’re investing in the city while the dairy abandoned the city . . . .

    Whether it’s the institutions I’ve attended or the ones that I’ve lived near, all have had, and continue to have, an edifice complex.  They build and build and then build some more.  Their borders creep outward as they buy adjacent properties for future projects.  Wash U apparently has large holdings north of their campus; the only difference is that they haven’t torn much down . . . . yet.

    What SLU is doing doesn’t surprise me, but I’m also surprised that there seems to have been little pushback, until now, and even that seems to be tepid, at best.  The outcry over the proposed demolition of the flying saucer was much more vocal, and it’s a much smaller structure.  Even Michael Allen seems willing to just preserve the facade here, and I’m hearing nothing from any of our elected “leaders”.

    Bigger picture, we can discuss whether or not all this acquisition and construction is truly necessary, and how it impacts the cost of higher education.  SLU is a microcosm of all of the whole sprawl versus density arguments.  With a campus that has two major nodes, more than a mile apart, should they be connected by a sprawling, low density campus?  Or, should each node get more dense and be connected by frequent transit service? 

    Urban universities, in my mind, need to be dense, otherwise they feel more like community colleges.  And the real “defining moment” is on- and near-campus housing.  Commuters live much different lives than resident students, and the campus life, and thus the campus infrastructure, evolves to meet these two different lifestyles.

     
  53. Anonymous says:

    Money talks.  There may have been interest in the Pevely complex before SLU purchased it, but apparently not enough interest.  And while it’s easy to cast SLU as the bad guy here, the real villain would have to be the dairy, since they’re the one that moved out and left a vacant indsutrial complex.

    800,000 > 350,000 = no need for half of what we have/had.  And I agree that building new when we have good old makes little sense, many users want new, not old, so the only way to get new is to tear down old.  The only other alternative is sprawl, since vacant land ends up being on the edges, not in the urban core.

     
    • JZ71 says:

      Good, comprehensive overview.  My only concern is focusing on embodied energy.  Without serious upgrades the existing buildings are and will continue to be energy hogs, compared to a well-designed new structure.  Kind of like jusifying paying $25K-$30K for a Prius to save $1K-$2K per year in fuel costs.

       
      • Adam says:

        you’re assuming these upgrades will still cost more than new construction even after tax abatement and materials savings.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          You (and I) can spin statistics any way you want to reach a desired conclusion.  A lot of what happens to embodied energy is what gets recycled and what ends up in the landfill.  And as our local brick, copper and stained glass thieves have figured out, embodied energy can be tranferred to new projects.

           
  54. Anonymous says:

    Good, comprehensive overview.  My only concern is focusing on embodied energy.  Without serious upgrades the existing buildings are and will continue to be energy hogs, compared to a well-designed new structure.  Kind of like jusifying paying $25K-$30K for a Prius to save $1K-$2K per year in fuel costs.

     
  55. Adam says:

    you’re assuming these upgrades will still cost more than new construction even after tax abatement and materials savings.

     
  56. Anonymous says:

    You (and I) can spin statistics any way you want to reach a desired conclusion.  A lot of what happens to embodied energy is what gets recycled and what ends up in the landfill.  And as our local brick, copper and stained glass thieves have figured out, embodied energy can be tranferred to new projects.

     
  57. Adam says:

    “You (and I) can spin statistics any way you want to reach a desired conclusion.”

    statistics? to what statistics are you referring? all i’m saying is that the savings from historic tax credits and not having to construct the shell of a building might offset the cost of retrofitting with energy-efficient systems.

     
  58. Adam says:

    “You (and I) can spin statistics any way you want to reach a desired conclusion.”

    statistics? to what statistics are you referring? all i’m saying is that the savings from historic tax credits and not having to construct the shell of a building might offset the cost of retrofitting with energy-efficient systems.

     
  59. Adam says:

    “And as our local brick, copper and stained glass thieves have figured
    out, embodied energy can be tranferred to new projects.”

    yep, but not if it’s sitting in a landfill. it can also be “transferred” to a new project utilizing the old building.

     
  60. Adam says:

    “And as our local brick, copper and stained glass thieves have figured
    out, embodied energy can be tranferred to new projects.”

    yep, but not if it’s sitting in a landfill. it can also be “transferred” to a new project utilizing the old building.

     
  61. Julie says:

    Why not? It doesn’t do STL any good to have too many old buildings and not enough actual business in any of them. I am all for historical buildings and maintaining them. There are plenty in STL that deserve such an honor. But not every old building that was once part of a company needs that kind of treatment. STL can use the money, SLU can probably use the space. Sometimes progress is more important.

     
  62. Julie says:

    Why not? It doesn’t do STL any good to have too many old buildings and not enough actual business in any of them. I am all for historical buildings and maintaining them. There are plenty in STL that deserve such an honor. But not every old building that was once part of a company needs that kind of treatment. STL can use the money, SLU can probably use the space. Sometimes progress is more important.

     
    • Adam says:

      “But not every old building that was once part of a company needs that kind of treatment.”

      Pevely is not “every old building”. It’s a midtown icon and it’s been unoccupied for less than three years so it’s in very good condition and an excellent candidate for repurposing.

      “STL can use the money…”

      What money is STL going to use, exactly? if the hospital owns the property they’re already paying property taxes. if the university owns it they don’t pay property taxes as they’re a non-for-profit. and most of the employees that will occupy this building are simply being moved from a smaller building which will, by the way, now be left vacant.

      “SLU can probably use the space.”

      go take a look at SLU’s recent demolitions and land-holdings and then try to say this again with a straight face. better yet, just go look at a Midtown satellite view on Google Maps.

      once again, this is not an either/or situation. SLU has options other than razing Pevely.

       
      • Julie says:

        Well, it creates jobs, and if people have jobs, they spend money. That money goes into the economy. Plus, the new business would need supplies and would have to spend for it. Its a win-win.

        Pevely no longer exists. Why live in the past? How does that help those living in the current? Keeping a building there that has been burned inside due to a fire, is vacant and not making any kind of production, not paying any kind of salaries to its workers is pointless.

        I prefer creating jobs than keeping a bunch of old buildings that will sit there and waste away and be destroyed by a bunch of kids with spray paint. Let it sit there any longer and no one will want to build anything there because it will become very decrepit very fast.

         
    • gmichaud says:

      Progress is not defined by those who demolish buildings. I
      will start with the late Edmund Bacon, planner and author of “Design of Cities”
      He talks extensively about the “Relation of Simultaneous Movement Systems to
      City Design”. This is the major idea and concept governing this intersection. In
      fact Grand and Chouteau represents this concept of the marriage of city
      planning and the relationship to movement systems as its main function more
      than any other intersection in the whole region. In contrast he Doisy Building
      across the street from Pevely Building is an abject failure and belongs in some
      suburban office park, not in an urban city. In as much as the Pevely building
      supports or fails to support this main function should determine its usage or
      demolition in the future. It should not be determined by some random planning
      by SLU, which has proven inadequate in the recent past (as with the Doisy
      Center).

      The major point is when the faux institutional leadership of
      SLU and the City government don’t seem to understand that we are on the cusp of
      a crisis if we do not begin to amend our planning methods to become more energy
      efficient and people friendly, they are not really leaders and they will wait
      for the complete collapse of oil and the resulting chaos to act.  And only then will they pretend to be leaders.
      But by then it will be too late.

       

       
  63. Adam says:

    “But not every old building that was once part of a company needs that kind of treatment.”

    Pevely is not “every old building”. It’s a midtown icon and it’s been unoccupied for less than three years so it’s in very good condition and an excellent candidate for repurposing.

    “STL can use the money…”

    What money is STL going to use, exactly? if the hospital owns the property they’re already paying property taxes. if the university owns it they don’t pay property taxes as they’re a non-for-profit. and most of the employees that will occupy this building are simply being moved from a smaller building which will, by the way, now be left vacant.

    “SLU can probably use the space.”

    go take a look at SLU’s recent demolitions and land-holdings and then try to say this again with a straight face. better yet, just go look at a Midtown satellite view on Google Maps.

    once again, this is not an either/or situation. SLU has options other than razing Pevely.

     
  64. Anonymous says:

    Progress is not defined by those who demolish buildings. I
    will start with the late Edmund Bacon, planner and author of “Design of Cities”
    He talks extensively about the “Relation of Simultaneous Movement Systems to
    City Design”. This is the major idea and concept governing this intersection. In
    fact Grand and Chouteau represents this concept of the marriage of city
    planning and the relationship to movement systems as its main function more
    than any other intersection in the whole region. In contrast he Doisy Building
    across the street from Pevely Building is an abject failure and belongs in some
    suburban office park, not in an urban city. In as much as the Pevely building
    supports or fails to support this main function should determine its usage or
    demolition in the future. It should not be determined by some random planning
    by SLU, which has proven inadequate in the recent past (as with the Doisy
    Center).

    The major point is when the faux institutional leadership of
    SLU and the City government don’t seem to understand that we are on the cusp of
    a crisis if we do not begin to amend our planning methods to become more energy
    efficient and people friendly, they are not really leaders and they will wait
    for the complete collapse of oil and the resulting chaos to act.  And only then will they pretend to be leaders.
    But by then it will be too late.

     

     
  65. Julie says:

    Well, it creates jobs, and if people have jobs, they spend money. That money goes into the economy. Plus, the new business would need supplies and would have to spend for it. Its a win-win.

    Pevely no longer exists. Why live in the past? How does that help those living in the current? Keeping a building there that has been burned inside due to a fire, is vacant and not making any kind of production, not paying any kind of salaries to its workers is pointless.

    I prefer creating jobs than keeping a bunch of old buildings that will sit there and waste away and be destroyed by a bunch of kids with spray paint. Let it sit there any longer and no one will want to build anything there because it will become very decrepit very fast.

     

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